Jerry Buttimer has become Fine Gael’s first TD to come out after the party launched a new forum to push for gay equality.
The Cork deputy said the creation of the group for FG representatives and activists was the appropriate moment to speak about his private life.
“I am a TD who just happens to be gay — it is one little composition of the story that is me, and I will continue to be the politician I was yesterday,” he said.
“I have got great support from my family and friends and from the wider community. I’m a politician, I’m a gay person, it’s a part of me, it is not who I am,” he said.
In a landmark move for the major party in government, Enda Kenny has given his full support to the group which is aimed at promoting gay equality issues, and the Taoiseach is set to address the forum in the autumn.
Some 150 party activists met to launch the group in Dublin on Saturday and Cabinet ministers James Reilly and Frances Fitzgerald spoke at the event.
Mr Buttimer, chairman of the new FG lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group, said Mr Kenny had strongly backed the idea.
“There is a multiplicity of reasons and of causes that allows us to get to the point in our lives where we decide to make a decision whether to come out or to stay hidden,” Mr Buttimer said.
“This group, and my decision, will, hopefully, be a footnote in the history of integration and inclusion.
“The Taoiseach has been very supportive.”
Mr Buttimer said one of the aims of the group is to push for full marriage equality. “If you look back Fine Gael has a very good record on advocacy. There will be people who would be uneasy — it’s the same in every walk of life, and part of forming this group is about bringing people with us.
“I think we need to have an honest debate about gay marriage equality. Polls show nearly three in four people in favour of gay marriage. What heartened me was the acceptance of civil partnership — the world hasn’t ended. It has been a huge benefit to many couples. I’ve always viewed civil partnership as being a stepping stone, a platform from which to build gay marriage,” he said.
Mr Buttimer joins two Labour TDs as the only deputies in the Dáil to have come out.